Posted by

Allen Adams Allen Adams
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

edge staff writer


About ‘Last Night in Soho’

Rate this item
(1 Vote)

Few active filmmakers are possessed of a style and sensibility that is specifically theirs. These filmmakers stamp their idiosyncratic signatures on their works in an undeniable manner; theirs are the movies that we watch and know instantly who made them. The Andersons – both Wes and Paul Thomas – are in that category, for instance. So too are the Coen brothers.

And Edgar Wright is definitely in that conversation.

The English auteur’s latest film is “Last Night in Soho,” a time travel horror thriller of sorts that is packed with the sort of vivid imagery and pop deep cuts in which he delights. We move back and forth between the present day and a neon-soaked ‘60s London, the color and lights serving only to deepen the shadows of a story whose details are ever-shifting.

Wright has never been one to flee from his influences; he’s unafraid to embrace and celebrate the pop culture sights, sounds and ideas that he loves. That said, “Last Night in Soho” – while undeniably and instantly identified as an Edgar Wright movie – might be the least overtly engaged in conversation with those influences. They’re there, but we’re much farther from the homage/pastiche vibe of, say, his Cornetto Trilogy.

It’s stylish. It’s creepy. And it’s very good.

Ellie Turner (Thomasin McKenzie) is an aspiring fashion designer who draws her inspiration from the 1960s – the music, the style, the everything. She has just been accepted to a prestigious London fashion program; her grandmother (Rita Tushingham) is skeptical, concerned about Ellie’s safety in the big city (as well as her tendency to occasionally see her late mother in mirrors), but ultimately wants Ellie to follow her dreams.

Unfortunately, Ellie’s early experience at the London College of Fashion isn’t ideal. She’s belittled and bullied by her roommate, a self-involved snob named Jocasta (Synnove Carlson), and struggles to make friends – though there’s a guy named John (Michael Ajao) who seems pretty nice. Rather than battle Jocasta, Ellie moves out, finding a room to rent in the house of an elderly woman named Ms. Collins (Diana Rigg).

Her first night there, Ellie has an incredibly vivid dream in which she is transported back in time to her beloved 1960s. She is not herself, but rather inhabiting the body of a young woman and aspiring singer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy). She is there as Sandie starts inquiries about landing a nightclub singing gig, as well as when she meets and takes up with a charming manager named Jack (Matt Smith). It’s an incredibly vivid dream, but just a dream.

Except … maybe it isn’t? Even as Ellie starts to recreate the fashions she saw in her dreams, she finds a hickey on her neck with no explanation as to how it got there. Ellie dyes her hair blonde and gets a job at a nearby pub, though she winds up attracting some unwanted attention from an elderly gentleman (Terence Stamp) who quite fancies her new look.

Every night, Ellie goes to sleep and finds herself in Sandie’s shoes, learning more about the young woman’s experience. Only as it turns out, there’s a lot more going on here than either woman truly understood, particularly with regard to Jack and his less than savory intentions. Ellie’s waking life and her dreams begin to bleed together, turning both states into something utterly nightmarish. And the more Ellie learns about Sandie, the more she wants to somehow help … and the more someone (or something) seeks to prevent her from doing so.

In terms of pure style, it’s tough to beat a movie like “Last Night in Soho.” Wright has such an exquisite aesthetic, such an eye for the finer details, that he paints a picture that is both hyperrealized and totally immersive. He manages to subvert the gaudy in a way that makes it into something sublime, beautifully realized images dancing across the screen. Seriously – there are a dozen moments, maybe more, where the viewer simply cannot help but be completely captivated by the purity of vision being put on display.

(Also, I’m not going to go into Wright’s pitch-perfect needle drops – there are a TON here, as there always are – but a personal highlight is James Ray’s original version of “Got My Mind Set On You.”)

This is particularly true in the film’s first hour or so, where we watch Wright build a bridge of magical realism between the mousy struggles of Ellie in the present and the far more glamorous (and dangerous) realm occupied by Sandie in the past. In a lesser filmmaker’s hands, this could all come off as lurid or garish, but with Wright, the shifts from past to present and back again are smoothly, elegantly realized.

The back half of the film takes things in an altogether more visceral direction, layering on a level of visual horror (including a take on a fairly common horror trope that was both unexpected and unsettling). Wright’s always had a high degree of comfort with genre conventions and he takes full advantage here, stuffing some significant gnarliness into the film’s final act. Still the same visual stylist, only in service to something far more sinister.

The performances are exceptional. McKenzie is an absolute charmer, a low-key juxtaposition against Taylor-Joy’s glammed-up self-styled sophisticate. The balance between the two is the engine that drives the entire film – both are excellent. Smith emits a malevolent charisma that is a delight to watch, while Stamp glowers in the way that only he can. Carlson, Ajao, Tushingham – all very good, though the surprise supporting MVP of the whole shebang is probably the incomparable Diana Rigg as Ellie’s prudish landlord with a secret.

“Last Night in Soho” is a fascinating film, one that moves the needle from magical realism to outright horror slowly enough to leave you wondering how you wound up there. It looks and sounds like nothing else – like an Edgar Wright film, stylish and sleek and driven by compelling imagery and dynamic performances. If this is your last night, well – at least you’re going out with a bang.

[4.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 01 November 2021 10:53


The Maine Edge. All rights reserved. Privacy policy. Terms & Conditions.

Website CMS and Development by Links Online Marketing, LLC, Bangor Maine